What are the two most common refrains in today’s collision repair industry? Probably these:
- We need more customers.
- We need more quality employees.
Finding responses to either can take a shop down a number of different, complex roads. Or you could stick to a single path and resolve both with one solution: focus on women.
Want more business? Women account for 62 percent of all new car buyers and make 85 percent of all car buying decision (according to Edmunds). They also spend over $300 billion annually on vehicle repairs. Looking for great hires? Studies show female employees bring huge returns in two particular areas: productivity and innovation.
A recent study by the International Finance Corporation detailed the benefits of incorporating more women in a workforce:
- Better access to required skillsets, from entry levels to senior positions.
- Improved team dynamics. Women tend to focus more on cooperation and drawing employees together.
- Long-term employees. Female employees multi-task and multi-focus better and thus are more willing to take over other positions, reducing the need to bring in additional hires.
- Upgraded work environments. Women can provide greater empathy, allowing them to focus more on individual needs. They also tend to communicate more effectively. (Could your management and customer service talent sets stand a significant upgrade here?)
The really good news: Women want to bring you their business and employment skills.
So why isn’t an army of women beating down your doors right now to make your business better?
Possibly because you haven’t taken the necessary steps to draw them in. Collision repair has long been a man’s world. Unfortunately, that’s sometimes meant too often overlooking the contributions women make and their potential to transform the repair industry for the better. Turn that around, and you could be writing your shop a ticket to a better tomorrow.
Here are some steps, provided by experts, you can take to make your shop the kind of business and workplace that draws in more women and ultimately men as well.
Learn and live the basics
When it comes to gender relations, what might your shop be doing wrong that needs to be fixed immediately? Start by considering the input of a successful woman who knows the industry inside and out.
Angi Semler-Welch has more than 20 years' experience working in and around the automotive service businesses. She graduated from tech school and holds a BA degree in Journalism and an MBA. She’s written and edited volumes of articles for both ABRN and Motor Age (ABRN's sister publication for the service repair industry) and served as both a customer service rep and operations manager for nearly a decade at an extremely successful Chicago-area shop. Most recently, she founded and serves as president of Jumpdog Marketing, which provides digital marketing solutions for auto repairers and other industries.
Semler-Welch says that as shops ramp up efforts to be more female friendly, some honest self-evaluation is in order. Specifically, does anyone at your shop commit any of the following:
- Use terms of endearment—e.g. dear, babe, sweetheart, honey. Someone saying these (including female employees) might mean well, but in today’s world these words are patronizing and, as such, unprofessional. Would you say them to a male customer or coworker?
- Use crude language. This means anywhere in a shop. If your estimator is up front trying to converse with a client and your crew is in the back swearing or carrying on like a rowdy bunch of school kids, it’s not going to send a good message.
- Talking down to customers or staff members. Would you do business with anyone who questioned your intelligence or treated you like a child?
- Act or respond to questions/comments impatiently. This includes interrupting others when they’re trying to speak (even if you think finishing someone’s sentences is the quickest way to resolve an issue). Want to come off as an uncaring and untrustworthy? This is just the trick. There probably isn’t a faster way to chase off business.
- Be careless with jokes. Everyone wants an enjoyable workplace, and an injection of humor can work wonders with customers and staff. It’s also can be risky. Humor is all about being subversive, turning logic and popular notions on their heads. What one-person thinks is innocent fun can be entirely offensive to another. Does your staff say things in jest that could easily turn off someone else?
- Post calendars, screen savers or posters of scantily clad women. A shop is a business, not a fraternity house. Remove anything like this immediately.
- Roaming eyes. This may seem crass but keep all looks at eye level. Making eye contact while speaking to someone is central to being a professional. Anything less is unacceptable (along with potentially being offensive).
There’s a good chance your shop isn’t guilty of any of these. But if you feel there might be areas that need to be addressed, they need to be taken care of now. Set rules against this behavior, and make sure they’re adhered to strictly.